Next Monday morning, 19 November, shareholders of Fairfax Media will gather in Sydney to vote on the company’s proposed merger with the Nine Entertainment Co. Probably uppermost in their minds will be the prospect of healthy dividends and a return on their investment. They might be worried that the deal looks less enticing than it did earlier in the year, but they would be relieved that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission decided last week not to oppose it.
It is unlikely many shareholders will be worried — as Margaret Simons was in Inside Story last week — by ACCC head Rod Sims’s finding that competition in the Australian news market will be reduced, though not substantially reduced, if the merger proceeds. As Simons argued, the ACCC’s decision accorded with its legislation, but the legislation is inadequate and outdated, and fails to tackle the news and information needs of people as citizens rather than as consumers.
Whether shareholders worry about such issues is their prerogative. But the supply of what is sometimes called public interest journalism, and what Fairfax Media’s chief executive Greg Hywood calls “quality journalism,” is vital to the nation’s democratic health, and for many decades Fairfax’s news outlets have been a core contributor. So the fate of Fairfax’s journalism is an issue for us all.
Read the full article on Inside Story.